I love a good pub. To me pubs hold comfort, conversation and a multitude of memories and I think this is what is captured so brilliantly in ‘TWO’. ‘TWO’ tells the story of ‘Landlady’ and ‘Landlord’ and the various people who use their pub.
I have to start with the set, my word I loved the set! Helen Coyston’s design captured the essence of a proper pub with sections of triangular carpet bringing the focus to the centre and the addition of the varied styles of lights showed how many pubs often have a lovable mismatch quality to them. The construction quality was beautiful and by setting the play in the round you felt the pace of the pub and could imagine all of the characters hunched up against sticky cider drenched chairs. The set was only enhanced by the lighting, designed by Zia Bergin Holly and operated by Jess Addinall, creating a mood for each of the characters as well as showing the progression of time in the pub; you felt that movement of early afternoon to late night.
‘Landlady’ played by Nicola Stephenson and ‘Landlord’, played by Matthew Wilson, both carried charm and a pinch of acidic sarcasm that fuelled excellent jibs at one another. The direction felt confident and true to the characters with lots of comedy moments as the new characters came on stage. My favourites were ‘Fred’ and ‘Alice’, the Elvis mad duo whose favourite word is ‘fat’, who I am more than certain I have met. Their fat insults were filled with love and they represented that couple that for no rhyme or reason work and are happily and unashamedly who they are. The scene displaying a relationship with domestic abuse was handled very well, and highlighted the impact of gaslighting with the audience audibly gasping at moments; it gave a decisive contrast to the other characters we had seen previously. At times there was a slight reliance on the costume to show a character change when a stronger and alternative vocal delivery was needed alongside a change in posture. Nicola Stephenson’s portrayal of the drunken ‘other woman’ was fab with her slightly crazed but well-meaning stalking at the pub. A bug-bear for me was the miming of the glasses. Miming is hard as you really have to imagine the size, texture and weight of the object that you are trying to portray. Yet as the play went on the pint glasses were leaning more towards sherry glasses and the rim of the glass became the thumb of the actor. A way that this could have been avoided would be by having a few real pint glasses that occasionally get cleared away alongside the mimed glasses as a reminder of how large the glasses are and where the hand placement should be. There could have also been an alternative way to show a new character arriving at the pub rather than one or both of the actors leaving the stage with an interlude of music and then coming back on again as this became a little repetitive.
When it came to Matthew Wilson’s depiction of the elderly man, I really admired the bravery in direction to hold silences/pauses longer than was comfortable, so for much of the time we were watching this man quietly drink with all those around him not recognising how lonely he is. Similarly, Nicola Stephenson gave a great performance as an older woman with her routine and regular drink that needs no extravagance, it is untroublesome and beautiful. I found what was highlighted most of all is that we know all these characters as often we can relate them to people we have seen at numerous pubs – but that we don’t really know them. ‘TWO’ allows us to get a more in-depth glance at their lives and with that we see their desire, ambition and pain, particularly with ‘Landlady’ and ‘Landlord’ hiding their grief until they can’t any longer. Pubs can be a safe haven and also a place of deep sadness for many, I think that is why this play holds such significance being set in the North as many Northern communities have in the past and still do rely on the pub as being something familiar; a day’s end destination, and this is the magic of ‘TWO’.
‘TWO’ runs at Hull Truck until 28th March and then it moves to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough from 31st March-18th April.